Jerusalem – In a program written by women in Slovenia, The World Day of Prayer is celebrated around the world in diverse communities of women. The women of the Arabic-speaking congregation at Redeemer Jerusalem participate in the annual ecumenical worship. The Palestinian worship was organized by Mrs. Ida Haddad and Mrs. Nora Carmi.
The theme, Come – Everything is Ready, is an invitation based on the parable of Jesus to come to the feast and proclaim the kingdom of love.
A table was set with bread, wine, water, salt, a vase and a ceramic bowl as found in the traditional meal gatherings of Slovenia.
Throughout the service there was local music, a call to prayer and the retelling of Slovenian women’s stories who were invited to the table in the face of difficulties and struggles.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden, Strängnäs Diocese Bishop Johan Dalman welcomed Bishop Ibrahim Azar on February 28 in Sweden to strengthen the friendship agreement between the two churches and future exchanges.
Bishop Azar delivered 6.30 pm Vesper in Strängnäs Cathedral. See reflection below.
Svenska Kyrkan: Strängnäs Stift article about his trip, here.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”Among the blessings of this year of Commemoration is the fact that for the first time Lutherans and Catholics have seen the Reformation from an ecumenical perspective.” and ” link=”” color=”#a30110″ class=”” size=”32″][Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity]
Amman, Jordan – Together with one voice delivering the Words of Institution, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land prepared the Eucharist table in concelebration with other Evangelical churches for the worship service during “The Evangelical Reformation and the Middle East: A Way Forward” conference, Tuesday 26 September in Amman, Jordan.
“The Evangelical Reformation and the Middle East” conference evaluated how the 1517 reformation event is amplified in all aspects of social, political and religious life in the Middle East today.
Gathered under the roof of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Amman, church leaders from the Evangelical denominations around the Middle East shared in the preparation to administer Christ’s blood and body to the congregation attending the conference and local members in a concelebration.
In 2006, the ELCJHL and six Reformed churches in the Middle East signed a mutual recognition agreement called the Amman Declaration. Through this declaration, the churches recognize each other as apostolic churches in preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. The churches mutually accept the validity of each church’s ministry and asked the Holy Spirit to bless the declaration so that it will lead to unity. (See first concelebration article, here)
In accordance with the Amman Declaration, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan, The Rev. Najla Kassab of The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, The Rev. Dr. Paul Haidosian of the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, The Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, the Evangelical Church of Beirut, and The Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki of the Evangelical Church in Egypt co-officiated communion.
Amman, Jordan – “When the West looks at Christianity of the East, they don’t look at the mosaic, they look at the Orthodox, not the Evangelicals,” said, The Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of Lebanon. This describes the environment which Middle Eastern Evangelicals are living, in the shadows of and looking toward the future of the Reformation.
As Lutheran and Reformed traditions around the world commemorate the 500th Year of Reformation, remembering the theology developed by the German reformer Martin Luther, Evangelical Christians in the Middle East assembled September 26-28 to do the same. The conference, “Evangelical Reformation and the Middle East: The Way Forward,” evaluated how the 1517 reformation event is amplified in all aspects of social, political and religious life in the Middle East today.
Invited by The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), Evangelical pastors, Heads of churches, elders, deacons, church council, principals, university faculty, and laity from Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Armenia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait met in Jordan to evaluate the impact of the Reformation on the East and the future of continuity in reformation for mainline Evangelical Christians.
A concelebration worship service at The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Amman opened the conference. (See story)
Along with the ELCJHL, 20 seminarians, leaders from the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMECC), seminaries and universities from around the Middle East contributed lectures and papers commemorating the spread of the Reformation from the 16th century into the Middle East and its developments in the 21st century.
Meeting in the region where the three major monotheistic faiths – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – were founded, the group expressed what the Reformation adds to this rich identity.
In the Middle East, Evangelicals comprise the church family of mainline Evangelical Protestant denominations alongside the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christian families. The group stressed that the first preference in identity for Middle East Christians is to be called Evangelicals rather than Protestants, indicating that Protestants connotates – protests – a word that is understood as division and strife in a region that is all too familiar with divisions. They prefer the description Evangelicals because it represents the Gospel teachings of unity and love.
The Evangelical Reformation and the Middle East Conference stimulated discussions about the introduction of Reformation principles into Arab culture through missionaries, the fruits, and challenges from the European exposure, how the Middle Eastern churches retain their distinct identity today, and how the group expects to see reform continue in the future.
Plenary sessions offered panel presentations with questions and answers about the Evangelical’s role among fellow indigenous forms of Eastern Christianity, political engagement, gender justice, contextual theology and the ecumenical movement in sight of the Reformation.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” quotation=” cite=”The contribution that is expected in every aspect of life is to work toward unity of hearts equally with the unity of doctrine. – Bishop Munib Younan” link=”” color=”#ff0000″ font-style=”italic” font-family=”georgia” class=”” size=”21″][/perfectpullquote]
A few reformed principles stood out as key doctrines to the religious life of the Evangelical in the Middle East: Sola scriptura, justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers.
It was explained that the Reformation’s principle of priesthood for all believers transformed the spiritual life of women in the 16th century. “The Reformation spread new principles of grace, the centrality of the Bible, the priesthood of all believers and new roles for women,” said Dr. Mary Mikhael, President Emeritus of the Near East School of Theology, Lebanon. However, there were no improvements for the woman of the 16th century within her society, therefore, “the maturity of principles of the Reformation has opened the door for women’s rights today.”
The ecumenical movement in the Middle East was also strongly connected to the priesthood of all believers.
“Reformation led to reformed churches, and the main pillars of the Reformation in the world are a natural progression of Evangelism. The more we study the priesthood of all believers, the more we understand it is a position of service, not of control,” The Rev. Najla Kassab, Head of the World Communion of Reformed Churches of Lebanon, said.
“The pains are the same. The closer the Evangelical and Catholic churches become, whether in Jerusalem, Palestine or the Gailiee, the more credibility we have in living with other religions,” said Bishop Emeritus Maroun Lahham, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Credibility among other Christians in the Middle East is also a concern for Evangelical Christians in the Middle East.
“[Orthodox Christians] say, ‘They have thrown out icons, or they don’t admit personal confessions to a Priest.’ We are only seen by what we reject not by what we believe together… We are not a cult, we are one united Church,” said Dr. Wageeh Michael of the Evangelical Theology Seminary in Cairo.
LIST OF PANELISTS AND PRESENTERS
Rep. from Prince Ghazi’s administration, Dr. Minwer Hmeid
His Grace Bishop Munib Younan – ELCJHL
Mrs. Rosangela Jarjour – General Secretary of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches
The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb – ELCJHL
Bishop Farouq Hammo -The Arab Presbyterian Church in Baghdad
The Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki – The Evangelical Church in Egypt
Bishop-elect Ibrahim Sani Azar – ELCJHL
The Rev. Dr. Habib Badr -The Evangelical Church of Beirut
Dr. George Sabra – The Near East School of Theology, Lebanon
Dr. Wageeh Michael – The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo
Dr. Ikram Lami – The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo
Dr. Mary Mikhael, President Emeritus of the Near East School of Theology, Lebanon
The Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, ELCJHL
Dr. Hani Hanna, The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo
Catholic Bishop William Shomali, Amman
Bishop Emeritus Maroun Lahham, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Ramallah – On Sunday, September 3, 2017, a delegation of members and clergy from the Byåsen Church of Trondheim Norway entered a partnership with The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah, agreeing to acknowledge each other, pray for one another and visit each other in a spirit of friendship and fellowship.
The Rev. Camilla Winsnes and The Rev. Steinar Leirvik participated in the Sunday morning worship that was concluded with the signing of the new partnership.
“It is an initiative we began two years ago, and now it has finally happened,” said, Mr. Winsnes a member of Byåsen Church and husband of Rev. Winsnes.